The United States is officially leaving the Paris Agreement, can they come back?

Chance of the calendar, this November 4 marks the final exit of the United States from the Paris agreement while the Americans are holding their breath to know which of Joe Biden or Donald Trump will sit in the White House for the next four years.

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It was a campaign promise from the Republican billionaire. Announced at the start of his (first) term in June 2017, the withdrawal of this climate agreement, described as“Horrible, expensive, one-sided” by Donald Trump, will still have taken more than three years to materialize. Rules of procedure had indeed forced him to wait until November 4, 2019, the day the text entered into force, to give his notice of withdrawal.

The climate, Joe Biden’s trump card

One year to the day after formally initiating the process with the UN, this is done. But the situation could change while the final results of the election are still pending. Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who called himself “Confident” in the results an hour before his rival claims victory, has already warned that he would return to the Paris Agreement if elected. If the withdrawal of the United States was laborious, their return would be a simple administrative formality.

“The Paris agreement was written so that Obama could have it validated without having to have it ratified by Congress”, recalls Pascal Canfin, LREM MEP and chairman of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. “This is what gave Donald Trump the opportunity to issue a decree to withdraw. Likewise, Joe Biden could issue a decree to return to it as early as January 2021. ” A return that would be made effective within 30 days, i.e. February 20, 2021, at the earliest.

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“To meet the 2 ° C target, we need to have the United States on board”, supports the MEP. The country is the second largest emitter of CO2 in the world behind China and ahead of India, according to the Global Carbon Project. Coming back to the race, Joe Biden, who has a $ 1.7 trillion plan to achieve U.S. carbon neutrality by 2050, also plans to call a climate summit bringing together the world’s most polluting nations. in the first hundred days of his tenure. It thus intends to enhance the commitments of each.

A reverse American commitment

“The major advanced economies of the world did not wait for the resolution of the uncertainties over the American elections to embark on the path of carbon neutrality”, notes Sébastien Treyer, Director General of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI). On December 12, the signatory countries are due to meet to present their higher targets, as provided for in the agreement.

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The United States will therefore not be in the game. “A process will have to be found to ensure that they can deposit their national voluntary contribution (NDC) that they will not be able to deposit in December”, explains Pascal Canfin in case of victory of Joe Biden.

The withdrawal of the agreement, a strong symbol for Donald Trump

For his part, if the victory he announced even before the end of the count was confirmed, there is no doubt that Donald Trump will wave loudly the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris agreement like a trophy. It is a strong symbol for the champion of the preservation of jobs in the fossil fuel sector. But that still hides two failures.

“When he started the withdrawal process in 2017, he expected other countries to follow him to unravel the agreement, but none did”, points out Pascal Canfin for whom the objective of the tenant of the White House was above all to “Kill the agreement as such”.

Will other countries follow him this time around in the light of his victory? Unlikely. Because if Washington sounds the climate-skeptic tocsin, the federal states, economic players and municipalities have already started the energy transition with the movement We are still in (“We are still in agreement”, in French).

In four years, Donald Trump has failed to revive the coal industry as he wanted. 145 coal-fired power stations have even been closed since his accession to power, which is more than under the Obama era, leading to a 15% reduction in the country’s production capacity, as recalled by New York Times.

“Whatever happens, renewable energies are becoming more and more important, even in the United States”, says Sébastien Treyer. So much so that, even without the support of the federal government, the country is expected to reduce its carbon emissions by 37% by 2030, according to a recent report by America’s Pledge.


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